Hand about to bang gavel on sounding block
Hand about to bang gavel on sounding block

Big change coming to Family Court

CHILD safety officers will be stationed at the state's Family Courts to help sift through parents' claims of domestic violence and child abuse.

For the first time, judges dealing with fraught cases will have someone on hand to dig out files to check what contact authorities have had with at-risk kids before determining orders.

It is anticipated their expert help during the two-year trial will see judges make safer orders, with fewer adjournments, fewer subpoenas issued and less waiting for families.

It is expected to help authorities intervene earlier where real risks of harm are raised.

Child safety officers will help judges make Family Court orders with children’s safety in mind.
Child safety officers will help judges make Family Court orders with children’s safety in mind.

Child Safety Minister Di Farmer said department officers would work with police at Queensland's four Family Law Courts - in Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns and Rockhampton - to provide the court with information on the child protection history of families, as well as whether there had been any history of domestic violence.

But it would work both ways, meaning information received from the courts, including parents' claims, would be relayed to the department and police to help with their risk assessments, Ms Farmer said.

"Protecting children and families relies on having all the right information at the right time to be able to make decisions about safety," she said.

"Families and children who've been affected by domestic and family violence often come into contact with multiple systems, including the family law system, Child Safety, and police.

"Each system or agency has some information about the situation - they'll have one or two pieces of the puzzle.

Child Safety Minister Di Farmer
Child Safety Minister Di Farmer

"It's when you put together a few pieces, you might then see a picture emerging that shows that this person is at high risk of imminent violence.

"Courts make decisions on the evidence in front of them, and this trial will help make sure that courts have the information they need to make those decisions."

The four child safety officers will also lead education for court workers on child protection issues.

The positions for the four Family Court liaison officers are being advertised now following the signing off of Commonwealth money to fund the places.

It's part of the Commonwealth's action plan against domestic violence, which will situate officers in 16 of the country's courts as part of an $11 million trial until 2022.

An independent evaluation of the trial will be held from the beginning of 2021.